Southwestern Chicken Stew

Southwestern Chicken StewSoup Switch
My whole life I have been a rule follower. I was that kid in the class who never put a toe out of line for fear of the punishments. I have never really been the kind of person to significantly test the boundaries of anything, though I have always wanted to be that person. A rebel. A maverick. I am pretty sure this is why I cook from recipes instead of off the cuff.

To be fair, I will change a recipe to suit my tastes but only after I have made it at least a couple of times. Rarely do I mess with things from the get-go. Last weekend though, my inner culinary rebel surfaced and I took a left turn…

What started out as an adaptation of a chicken stew with peppers from the Basque region turned into more of a southwest stew/chili/gumbo type thing. There was something about the combination of ingredients that had me reaching for the black beans and cumin. Served over rice, the flavors were reminiscent of the southwest with the hearty whole meal feel of the bayou.

Maybe it was innovation or maybe it was just muscle memory that made me assume that tomatoes and peppers should also have beans and a squeeze of lime but it turned out tasty. I made enough to store some in the freezer for a future mid-week dinner on the run.

Tonight the future is here…as is a tasty dinner!

Southwestern Chicken Stew
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Tres Leches Cake

Tres Leches CakeViva Cake! 
We eat Mexican food a lot—easily twice a week if not more. So, when Cinco de Mayo rolls around it makes it kinda difficult to come up with something “special” to mark the occasion. The easiest way to do something different, in my opinion, is with dessert. (And don’t forget the tequila…)

About four years ago we took a trip to Mexico and while down there I came across a gorgeous neon pink tome of a cookbook called, appropriately, Mexico, The Cookbook. It is 704 pages long and filled with recipes that come from all regions and categories—like classic, everyday, and special occasions. Since it has been part of my collection, I haven’t even come close to making a dent. But, when I am looking for something authentically Mexican, this is where I turn.

I chose the recipe because it’s tasty and also because very few desserts scream Mexico as much as this one. (Except maybe flan.) If you have never had a truly good Tres Leches Cake you are in for a treat. (Plus it’s way less frustrating than flan…)

This particular recipe has strawberries in it. You could leave them out if you wish. I’ve eaten it both ways. If you are planning a get together for Cinco de Mayo, or even if you are not, I highly encourage you to give this cake a shot.

Tres Leches Cake
Adapted from Mexico, The Cookbook by Margarita Carrillo Arronte Read more…

Citrus Marinated Chicken Tacos

Citrus Marinated Chicken TacosFiesta De Mayo
May is a month of celebrations. There are five birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Memorial Day. It’s a busy month and the official kick off is Cinco de Mayo.

For the record, I do not have one single drop of Mexican blood in me. Not even a little. (I’ve done the Ancestry DNA test. I’m pretty boring.) What I do have is an insane love for Mexican cuisine, which is why Cinco de Mayo is a big deal in my house. My husband went so far as to remind me last night that Cinco de Mayo was this Friday. As if I hadn’t already started planning? Dude, it’s like you don’t even know me…

Cinco de Mayo falling on a weekday can be somewhat problematic. Sure, the fact that it’s on Friday is a good thing since you can sleep in on Saturday. But, it makes menu planning a bit more limiting. For a lot of people, Mexican food means tacos and burritos. And, while this is a part of Mexican cuisine, there is so much more to it. Mexican cuisine has boundless diversity and flavor that varies from region to region. You could spend years trying to experience all of its nuances and hidden tastes. Which is exactly the problem. Some of the best food Mexico has to offer takes time and does not lend itself to a Friday night meal after work.

So, tacos it is with fresh tortillas, preferably homemade. (If you have never made your own tortillas, grab a bag of Maseca and give it a try. You’ll never go back to packaged.)

This Citrus Marinated Chicken Tacos recipe is one I made for my very first Cinco de Mayo celebration 20 years ago. It’s an oldie but a goodie. I have been known to add a little tequila to the marinade when I’m feeling sassy…

Citrus Marinated Chicken Tacos
Yields filling for about eight tacos

Read more…

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden SalsaSwimmin’ with the Fishes
Anytime the weather turns sunny and a smidge warmer, I tend to start eating more fish. Maybe it’s the looming promise of bathing suit season but at the first signs of spring, I feel the need to eat a bit lighter.

To say that I dramatically increase my fish intake would be a stretch. It’s a relative thing because I’m not a big lover of fish. I tend to gravitate more towards a cheeseburger.

When I do make fish, I like to go simple with a lot of flavor. That may sound contradictory but let me explain. If I had to pick my favorite fish recipe it would be this one, Salmon Roasted in Butter. It’s so quick to make and with some really fresh Salmon—it melts in your mouth.  One cannot live on Salmon alone, though. It would be boring.

Next best way to make fish? Grill it.

Not all fish does well on the grill. But, Tuna is one of them. Because they are hearty and firm, Tuna steaks are perfect for the grill, and are a great alternative to red meat. They even work well as a burger (for those times when you crave a burger but have to be good). And it happens more than you think…

I usually just brush on some olive oil and sprinkle the steaks with a little salt and pepper. If I want to brighten the flavor up a bit I will top them with mango salsa or even better, with real salsa.

Grilled Tuna with Spicy Garden Salsa
Adapted from Rick Bayless

Read more…

Red Chilaquiles

Red ChilaquilesBreakfast, It’s What’s for Dinner
I have long been a fan of breakfast for dinner—it kind of feels like you’re breaking the rules a bit. A rebel without a spoon, if you will…

We would have breakfast for dinner once in a while when I was growing up, usually waffles ‘cause Dad was a big fan. When I moved out on my own, scrambled eggs and toast made for and easy and cheap dinner. Throw a little salsa on there, and it was a fiesta. Ole!

Nowadays we have breakfast for dinner at least 3 times a month. It’s my culinary equivalent to running up the white flag. Whether it is because of time constraints, over-achieving chickens or the inability to string an idea together beyond eggs, breakfast is a great way to avoid extreme pizza, Chinese take-out, burger fatigue.

Breakfast for dinner almost always involves whatever I have on hand. Sometimes that means straight up scrambled eggs and toast. Sometimes there’s bacon or sausage. Pancakes have been known to make an appearance, with or without pecans and bananas. Other times there might be drop biscuits and honey instead of toast. My favorite though, is when there are leftover tortilla chips because that means one thing: Chilaquiles.

My love of Mexican food is well documented which is why it should come as no surprise that my favorite breakfast for dinner dish is basically Mexican breakfast. If you have never had Chilaquiles you have been missing out on the ultimate comfort food and hangover cure (or so I have been told). It’s spicy, cheesy, crispy goodness piled high on your plate. Sometimes there is shredded chicken. Sometimes I use salsa verde or regular salsa instead of making a red sauce…just depends on mood and my previous shopping trips.

So next time you find yourself with a half-eaten bag of stale tortilla chips, give this a shot!

Red Chilaquiles
Read more…